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Tulsa College of Law creates energy law program for Chinese students

Chinese law students soon will have a new opportunity to learn about the American legal system with a focus on energy law.

The University of Tulsa College of Law on Monday announced a partnership with Beijing Normal University that will allow Chinese law students to receive an advanced legal degree with an energy law focus. The program is expected to begin next fall.

“What we’ve done is focus the course choices around one of our areas of greatest expertise, greatest depth and greatest strength, which is energy law,” said Janet Levit, dean of the TU College of Law.

Students in the program will complete two years in China and one in Tulsa and receive a Chinese law degree and a Master of Law degree, known as an LLM, from Tulsa. The Tulsa law school has offered an LLM program for foreign lawyers for several years. The new program focuses specifically on energy law and is the Tulsa program’s first direct partnership with the Beijing university.

As part of the program, the core classes will be split between energy regulation and environmental law.

“In the U.S., we are very aware that we need to balance the desire to develop our energy and natural resources to promote economic development against the long-term cost,” Levit said.

“Other countries are not as far along on that curve of looking at how we create balance between the need to develop those resources and the need to do it in a responsible way. So I think that we in the U.S. … are able to teach a lot about the regulatory structure on how we create at the national, state and local level that balance between developing our resources and doing it in a responsible way.”

On the other side of the state, the University of Oklahoma College of Law last year began offering a similar LLM program. The OU program is not tied directly to a foreign university but is open to lawyers throughout the United States and worldwide. Participants in OU’s John B. Turner LLM Program can choose one of three tracks: energy, natural resources or native people.

“We have a long history in energy law dating back to Eugene Kuntz, who is the father of oil and gas law in many ways,” said Joseph Harroz Jr., dean of the OU College of Law. “We looked for areas where an advanced degree would be beneficial, and energy law was one of those areas.

The Oklahoma City University School of Law has been working with Chinese law students since 2005. Through the partnership, OCU students can receive credit for studying over the summer at China’s Nankai University.

Chinese students and practicing Chinese lawyers participate in four-week summer programs that focus on the American legal system. International partnerships are essential to providing both American and international students a thorough education, said Lawrence K. Hellman, dean emeritus at the OCU School of Law.

“It’s really important to understand the cultural differences between the different legal systems and business systems,” he said.

“Having that exposure and opportunity to have cultural interchange is important for our graduates as they enter the global markets.

“China is the second-largest economy in the world. Our graduates are going to be bumping shoulders with Chinese entities and their legal system wherever they go.”

The partnerships also are essential for Oklahoma businesses, he said.

“You’d be surprised at the number of small companies that are doing business in China,” Hellman said.

“To do that, you’re going to need to have lawyers who understand the legal system in China.”

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